top of page

Georgia Sheriff Denies Arson Angle in Church Burnings

Sept. 9, 1962 - Sheriff Z.T. Mathews of Terrell County, Ga., where two Negro churches were destroyed by fire this morning, said that investigators had found “no physical evidence to support arson.” The sheriff discounted the possibility that the churches had been destroyed because of voter-registration activity. Instead, he contended that if arson were involved, it might have been the result of resentment over the fact that white and Negro workers of the student coordinating committee were living together. “It’s unusual for white folks down here to be living with n*****s — pretty unusual,” he remarked. “The n*****s are upset about it, too — the better n*****s.” Sheriff Mathews, who is being assisted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, said arson experts had been called into the case. Both he and D.E. Short, assistant police chief of Sasser, said the fires had started between 1 and 2 a.m. Asked if the fires had been set, Mr. Short replied: “You know as much about it as I do. I was in bed asleep.”

bottom of page